John Tortorella couldn't have been happier with what he saw from his team in Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden. And although the coach wouldn't agree to admit that the New York Rangers are "close" to a Stanley Cup, he still has a lot of pride in his club for their ability to bounce-back from failure.
Another ability Torts must be appreciative of is the way the Blueshirts have been able to string together wins this season, and that will be exactly their goal when hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening. There are only three games remaining before the All-Star break, and winning all three would put New York in a very comfortable position going into the hiatus.
They key to Tuesday's win was how each player, each line, and each unit contributed equally on each and every shift. As of late we've only seen one to two lines creating offense each night, but that was quickly fixed after the disaster in Montreal over the weekend. They will need a similar effort tonight against a Penguins team that has won its last three games. This current win streak, though, came after the Pens dropped four consecutive games that had them out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. They're doing their best to get themselves back in the picture without captain Sidney Crosby.
Evgeni Malkin, however, has stepped in and filled Sid's shoes quite well, registering seven goals and an assist in his last 6 games. As we all know, Malkin is a very dangerous player that can easily take over a game by himself (just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning). The Rangers defended him very well in their previous two meetings this season, though.
Speaking of which, the Rangers took wins out of both matches against the Penguins so far this season. The first came, 4-3, back in November here in New York, and the second came more recently, 3-1, on January 6. The Rangers have been incredibly successful against division teams this season. In fact, their only loss to a team within their division came in early October against the Islanders. The Isles, Flyers, Penguins or Devils have not beaten the Blueshirts since then.
A game like this, against a skilled hockey team, is one in which you look to your top players. Yes, that's you Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. Both players have been relatively quiet as of late, but they are going to need to bring their A-game for this one against Geno and the Pens. Dan Giradi and Ryan McDonagh are obviously just as important on defense, as is Henrik Lundqvist in goal, but the Rangers need offense tonight, and that's been somewhat hard to come by in recent games.
With a hot team like the Pens coming in, this is also a tilt I could very well see Henrik Lundqvist stealing for his team. Hank absolutely loves to play against Pittsburgh, so there's a little extra motivation there to be perfect between the pipes for King Henrik. We'll see if there are more "M-V-P" chants coming down from the rafters tonight at MSG like they were on Tuesday.
Tonight's lineup will remain unchanged, but Tortorella will be rolling with the lines that the team finished with against the Predators. That will leave Brandon Prust on the second line, while Ryan Callahan slides down to the third offensive trio. As Tortorella said, Callahan will compliment Boyle and Fedotenko well, and his previous line was getting a little stale anyway.
New York Rangers Lineup